Monday, November 27, 2017

Josh Hennessy Autographed Card

Josh Hennessy finished his Juniors career with three straight 80-point seasons (84, 82 and 85, actually) with the LHJMQ's Québec Remparts, then went on to produce 63 points (24 goals and 39 assists) in 80 games with the AHL's Cleveland Barons, leading the team in every offensive category.

He then was part of a three-team trade that saw him transit by the Chicago Blackhawks (with Tom Preissing, for Mark Bell) before landing with the Ottawa Senators (with Preissing, Michal Barinka, and a second-round pick, for Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski).

While he failed to secure a spot in the Sens' NHL lineup, he continued to do well for their AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators, putting points on the board nearly every game. What probably interested the Sens as much as his dazzling speed and ability to set up teammates was the fact that while playing in the "Q", the American had learned French, and as his grasp of the language increased, he took on a bigger leadership role on the team, first as alternate captain, then as captain. He was fluent by his last season in Québec.

After four seasons during which he wasn't truly given a shot at the NHL level, having been surpassed on the Sens' depth chart by the likes of Ilya Zubov, Martin Saint-Pierre, Zack Smith and Peter Regin, he opted to sign with Switzerland's famed HC Lugano for the 2010-11 season, then returning to North America in the Boston Bruins organization the following year.

Having played in only three games for the Bs, Hennessy opted for Europe as his long-term plan, with the NHL lockout looming, first in the KHL for three years with a stint in Switzerland thrown in for good measure, then four seasons with Sweden's Vaxjö Lakers, including a championship win in 2014-15.

This year, he's back playing for the Providence Bruins, and he has 5 points (two goals and 3 assists) so far in 12 games.

Here he is wearing the Barons' beautiful white (home) uniform, on card #388 from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set, which he signed in blue sharpie when the Sens played against the Montréal Canadiens in 2008:
What a great design. Who would have thought the Sharks' theme and colours could work so well on a jersey? I'm a huge fan of the history of the Barons, by the way.

The original Barons played in the AHL from 1937 until 1973, winning ten divisional titles and nine Calder Cups, which was a league record until the Hershey Bears won their tenth in 2009. The team moved to become the Jacksonville Barons in 1973-74, only to fold unceremoniously after season's end. I am related to Roger Bessette who played on that team (goalie, 1946-1949).

Meanwhile, in the NHL, the California Seals were founded in 1967, bearing the same name as a team from the Western Hockey League, quickly becoming the Oakland Seals (1967-70), then the California Golden Seals (1970-76). The NHL wasn't ready, however, for a team with painted skates and white gloves, and California wasn't ready for NHL hockey either, so to give it a final chance of succeeding, the franchise was moved to Cleveland in 1976, taking on the Barons mantle. Despite some level of success, the team folded in 1978 - the year I was born - and some of its players were assigned to the Minnesota North Stars when that team was purchased by George and Gordon Gund, former minority owners of the Seals and future founding owners of the Sharks.

The final professional iteration of the Barons was the one Hennessy played for, which was in Cleveland from 2001-06. That franchise started out as the Kentucky Thoroughblades (1996-2001), then went on to become the Worcester Sharks (2006-15) and are now known as the San Jose Barracuda (2015-present).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tommy Salo Jersey Card

Tommy Salo's a bizarre case. It can be said that during his time with the New York Islanders, he was among the lower tier of NHL starters, yet it's also true that he was the team's best goalie of the 1990s. Because they were a shitty team that made shitty decisions, one of which was to acquire goalies who were past their prime (Ron Hextall, Félix Potvin) or just plain bad (Tommy Soderstrom), Salo's main competition as "the guy" of the decade would be perennial backups Glenn Healy, Mark Fitzpatrick and Jamie McLennan.

Also, because the Isles were so terrible, he got to play in many World Championships with Team Sweden, more often than not displaying amazing poise under pressure:
- 1994: bronze medal:3 games, 3.33 GAA, .846 save %
- 1997: silver medal: 10 games, 2.00 GAA, .918 save %
- 1998: gold medal: 9 games, 0.77 GAA, .951 save %
He was also spectacularly good at the 1994 Olympics, helping secure gold for the Swedes against Team Canada, especially when he stopped Paul Kariya on a penalty shot.

Of course, this being the 1990s Iles, GM Mike Milbury tore into him at an arbitration hearing, then traded him to the Edmonton Oilers, where he would be a workhorse, finishing in the top-8 for games played four straight times, and finishing top-10 in Vezina voting three times.

His Vezina votes were reminiscent of those of the 1980s, as he wasn't dominant or anything, but he just played so many games; his record for those three seasons reads as follows:
from HockeyDB
Two of those seasons, he was barely a game or two over .500, and the other season, his save percentage was a full ten points lower than the other two, and his GAA was more than 20 points higher than the following year.

He again played in multiple World Championships during that period, four of them as a starter, three of them earning bronze medals:
- 1999: bronze medal: 8 games, 1.84, .921%
- 2000: 7th place: 6 games, 1.67 GAA
- 2001: bronze medal: 8 games, 1.94, .920%
- 2002: bronze medal: 7 games, 1.96, .919%
And, of course, this happened while he was representing Sweden at the 2002 Olympics:

He was never the same after that, and he'd only represent Sweden as a backup from that point on, albeit on a silver medal-winning team at the Worlds in 2003 (3 games, 4.15 GAA, .861 save %) and a disappointing fifth-place finish at the 2004 World Cup (one game, 2.00 GAA, .895 save %).

I traded for a card of his with the Oilers a little over a year ago:
That's card #V-TS from Upper Deck's 2002-03 Mask Collection set and View From the Cage sub-set. It shows him wearing Edmonton's turn-of-the-millennium white (home) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch (that could also very well be from his days on Long Island).

His goaltending style was also reminiscent of that of the 1980s, as he mostly just stood up, waited for a shot to be taken, and would use his reflexes to get to the puck. It was crowd-pleasing, for sure, but it probably worried his coaches more than they care to admit. And his off nights were, thus, extremely off, because he couldn't rely on odds and statistics like butterfly goalies, who are set to block 83-89% of shots just by kneeling and keeping still.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Brandon Watson Autographed Card

When Brandon Watson was drafted by the fledgling Montréal Expos in the ninth round in 1999, there was some level of excitement, because he's the godson of former Cincinnati Reds star Eric Davis.

It didn't turn out that way, and he eventually toiled around in the minor league systems of the Florida Marlins, Reds, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

He did play in the Majors - with the Expos' descendants, the Nationals, no less - appearing in 40 total games over three seasons between 2005 and 2007. His career batting average stands at .198.

He does have a minor-league record, however, having hit in 43 consecutive games in the International League with the Columbus Clippers in 2007.

Here he is sporting the Expos' #20 - which he never wore in an actual game - on card #321 from Topps' 2003 Bowman collection and First Year Card sub-set, identifying it as his rookie card:
He signed it in blue sharpie, on top of the silver facsimile autograph on the card.

He wore #00 with the Nationals.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Buster Davis Autograph Card

Buster Davis was a star linebacker from his high school days at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach (Florida) all the way through his All-American residency with the Florida State University Seminoles.

He was drafted in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals, but was released just months later, only to be picked up by the Detroit Lions. He spent the 2007 season in Detroit, before hitting the waiver wire in August of 2008 and getting claimed by the Indianapolis Colts, even getting re-signed at the end of the 2008 campaign... only to get waived by them in March.

In 2009, the Houston Texans decided to play around with his psyche, signing him to a one-year deal on April 3rd, waiving him on September 5th, re-signing him to the practice squad on October 8th and releasing him again on October 13th.

After that, he toiled around in minor leagues with the Hartford Colonials (2010, UFL), Las Vegas Locomotives (2010, UFL) and Jacksonville Sharks (2011-2012, AFL), before calling it quits.

In 2012, he wa named head coach at Duval Charter of Jacksonville, but was let go after 7 games; in 2013, he took on the same job at St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut prior to spring practice but left that job four months later. 

In 2014, he was named head coach at McArthur High School, saying:
Some people only look to tomorrow. But some people like myself need to have a vision that goes past tomorrow, past two weeks from now. We really feel that in the next two to three years that our program is going to be one everyone talks about and players at other schools will want to come play for.
He resigned after going 0-10.

In 2015, he took on the head coaching position at Port Orange Atlantic... resigning in August, two days after the beginning of Fall training, without ever coaching a single game with the team.

I wouldn't hire him to renovate my home... or probably anything else, for that matter.

Here he is wearing the Cardinals' red (home) uniform, on card #X-BD from Upper Deck's 2009 SPX set and X Factor Signatures sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Fredrik Olausson Autographed Card

When I think of the best defensemen of the first iteration of the Winnipeg Jets, three names come to mind: Phil Housley, Teppo Numminen, and Fredrik Olausson. Obviously, Housley has since been named to the Hall Of Fame, but the latter two were also important in making the Jets one of the three best teams in the Clarence Campbell Conference.

Unfortunately for them, the best two - the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames - also played in the same division, so the Jets were, essentially, doomed to never have playoff success, and their defensemen were doomed to finish in the minuses, despite having boasted some of the best offensive talent of all time in the likes of Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne.

Although I associate Olausson and Numminen mostly with Winnipeg, the former did play for many more teams, having also suited up for the Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Mighty Ducks (three stints for parts of five seasons in total) and one year with the Detroit Red Wings, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2001-02.

He also played in the Swedish League, winning championships with Karlstad Farjestads BK (1985-86) and Jonkoping HV71 (2003-04). He returned to his original team, Farjestads BK, in 2006-07, but was forced to retire due to a failing liver, which required two operations and a transplant.

He returned to HV71 for the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach.

Internationally, he won a silver medal with Team Sweden at the 1986 World Championships and was part of the team that finished fifth at the 2002 Olympics.

Here he is wearing the Jets' 1990s blue (away) uniform, on card #264 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 1 collection:
He signed it in blue sharpie, which should place this signature as being from the 2002-03 season.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Theoren Fleury Jersey Card

As is becoming a yearly tradition for me, I took a look at the Hall Of Fame-eligible players this year and was totally underwhelmed. Once again, someone's going to get in who will bring the level of merit down.

In the past, in my opinion, too many "just stars" made the cut, when it's supposed to be the elite of the elite, the world-class, the best of the best, the Immortals. By that, I mean the likes of Mats Sundin, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, and particularly Mike Gartner.

In the meantime, Rogatien Vachon had to wait 25 years too long to be appointed to his rightful place and Jean-Claude Tremblay and a few others who defected to the WHA are still waiting. And Pat Burns had three chances to be inducted while he was alive but was passed over until he passed on. And people seem to have forgotten just how good Doug Wilson was - much better than Murphy, that's for sure; the fact that he hasn't won anything as the San Jose Sharks' long-time GM shouldn't be a factor in remembering how dominant he was on defense.

Some players absolutely deserve to get in, this year: Boris Mikhailov - the 1970s and 1980s Russian Mario Lemieux - Martin St-Louis, Daniel Alfredsson.

Then there are players that will probably get in that I don't really mind but also wouldn't mind of they didn't, such as Alexander Mogilny; he started out great but didn't keep that pace up throughout his career like Pavel Bure, Teemu Selanne or even Peter Forsberg.

There are players who may get in but in my opinion fall into the "stars, not supertars" category: Sergei Zubov, Curtis Joseph, Jeremy Roenick, and Keith Tkachuk. Alex Kovalev, the first Russian first-rounder and first on the Stanley Cup, had a better career, albeit perhaps not one as consistent - but his peaks were much higher.

Then there's those who just shouldn't even be considered, based on the fact that they accomplished very little on their own, but somehow, perhaps ironically, people have been making campaigns to put in the Hall for years, like Chris Osgood. That's fucking ridiculous. Joseph comes in way before Osgood, and José Theodore comes before any of them with his Hart, Vezina, and success with four different teams. And if Joseph gets in, then you have to consider Sean Burke as well. For me, Theodore and Burke fall short, Joseph falls way short, and Osgood shouldn't even be in the conversation.

Which brings me to players who probably won't get in but kind of should seeing as similar players are in, such as Pierre Turgeon. Theo Fleury is probably tops of that class in my opinion.

455 goals, 633 assists, 1088 points and 1840 penalty minutes in 1084 regular-season games, 34 goals and 45 assists for 79 points in 77 games (with 116 penalty minutes), his name engraved on the Stanley Cup with the rest of the 1989 Calgary Flames, two hart Trophy top-five finishes, and tons of medals with Team Canada  - gold at the 1988 World Juniors, 1991 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympics, and silver at the 1991 World Championships and 1996 World Cup.

All of this, of course, while a "raging alcoholic lunatic" due to suffering sexual abuse at the hands of his former Juniors coach Graham James, with whom he later bought stakes in the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, just to give you an idea of the Svengali grasp James had on his victims.

And, let's not forget, that three years after retiring from the NHL, he came back to competitive sport and was named the UK's Elite Hockey League's Player Of The Year while with the Belfast Giants, posting no less than 22 goals, 52 assists and 74 points (to go with 270 penalty minutes...) in... 34 games.

Fleury was a tremendous player with a ton of heart and matching talent who scored 51 goals in 1990-91, twice more reached the 40-goal plateau, twice exceeded 100 points (plus a 96-point season), and whose worst NHL season deep in the thralls of depression, substance abuse and the Dead Puck Era, consisted of 33 points in 54 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002-03 - or decent second-line numbers by modern accounts.

There are, without a doubt, many lesser players in the Hall.

Here he is sporting the Flames' turn-of-the-millennium red (away) uniform, on Frankencard #GJ-TF from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a blue game-worn jersey swatch that likely stems from his days with the New York Rangers (1999-2002). It was while with the Blueshirts that he struck Wayne Gretzky enough to have The Great One - Canada's GM - invite him along for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics despite Fleury's drinking and cocaine problems becoming increasingly public. Out of respect to "99", Fleury - who claims to have failed 13 consecutive NHL drug tests but wasn't suspended because he was a star player - went "dry" for the entire tournament.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tyler Cuma Autograph Card

Many judge an NHL amateur scouting staff by number (or percentage) of players selected that play "at least one game at the NHL level", which is usually the standard by which Montréal Canadiens head scout Trevor Timmins keeps his job every year, because most of his first-round picks do end up playing in the league, but few of them become impact players, and even less get to fulfill the promises he makes for them - "future captain" is a title he has bestowed upon the likes of Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Brendan Gallagher, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D'Agostini, David Fischer, Ryan McDonagh, the first two being players he hadn't even drafted.

If the same applies to other teams' scouts, then the Minnesota Wild should count Tyler Cuma's lone NHL game as a "win", despite the 23rd-overall pick of the 2008 draft playing in Austria since the 2014-15 season. Last season was the first time he broke the 10-point mark (11, in 41 games) with the Vienna Capitals.

Everything was going well for him until he suffered a knee injury incurred during Team Canada's 2009 World Juniors selection camp ruined everything for him. He felt its effects throughout his four seasons in the AHL.

He was in every card set in 2012-13, so I landed a few of his cards.I thought I'd start out by featuring this one, #223 from Upper Deck's 2012-13 SP Authentic set and Future Watch sub-set, numbered 308/999:
It's hard signed, on-card, in blue sharpie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kyle Baun Jersey Card

Following decent seasons, statistically, in lower-level Junior leagues such as the OJHL and the CCHA, Kyle Baun took his talents to Colgate University where his size and versatility proved more and more important as the years passed, leading to the Chicago Blackhawks signing him to a two-year entry-level free agent deal in 2015, which included a 3-game showing to finish off the 2014-15 season.

He got two more reps in the NHL the following year, but spent the majority of his first full professional season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, posting 1 goal and 8 assists for 9 points in 43 games.

He more than tripled that production last year, finishing second on the team with 14 goals, 20 assists and 34 points in 74 games last year and was traded to the Montréal Canadiens for Andreas Martisens in early October, meaning that the trade that sent talented forward Sven Andrighetto to the Colorado Avalanche at last season's trade deadline was a complete flop, as was Habs GM Marc Bergevin's entire strategy of adding heavy players last year, seeing that only Shea Weber remains from his "bulk increase"/Claude Julien-friendly moves, as no one among Martisens, Steve Ott, and Dwight King remain with the organization just 30 games later.

Baun, however, is on pace to have his best career numbers yet, with 9 points (2 goals and 7 assists) in 16 games so far with the Laval Rocket. The 6'2", 210-pound 25-year-old is developing into the power forward many saw in him, and even if he platoons as a half-point-per-game player in the AHL, that kind of skill can still be translated to a bottom-six role in the NHL.

In other words, he's doing alright. As long as the current administration doesn't ruin him, as the Bergevin/Julien duo seems to be able to do rather quickly these days.

Here he is sporting the Hawks' classic red (now-home) uniform, on the "Copper" variant version of card #181 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 SP Game-Used Edition collection and Authentic Rookies sub-set:
It features a small matching event-worn jersey swatch from a rookie photo shoot, and is numbered 377/399.

He is the grandson of former Toronto Maple Leafs star defenseman and Toronto Toros head coach Bobby Baun, who is in the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Josh Labandeira Autographed Card

Josh Labandeira played professional baseball until 2008, mostly in AAA ball, appearing in 7 MLB games with the Montréal Expos in 2004, with 14 plate appearances and 4 strikeouts. I met him at that time, in September 2004, as the team was ready to fold, playing its final games at the Stade Olympique. That's probably when he signed this rookie card, #216 from Topps' 2004 Bowman set and First Year sub-set, in blue sharpie, although I do not specifically recall it:
While it doesn't show him wearing the #1 uniform from his regular season games, it does show him wearing #73, from Spring training, which slots him perfectly in my Expos Numbers Project.

Following his retirement, he moved to California and became an assistant coach for the Reedley College baseball team, until the Boston Red Sox came calling and signed him as their Western California scout.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shawn McEachern Autograph card

Shawn McEachern had an interesting career, twice scoring over 30 goals per season (31 in 1998-99 and 32 in 2000-01), twice coming close (28 goals in 1992-93 and 29 in 1999-2000), and suiting up for two stints each with the Pittsburgh Penguins (the team that drafted him 110th overall in 1987) and his hometown Boston Bruins.

His history with the Pens alone is worth looking into, as it took him four years to join the team after being drafted, playing with the Boston College Terriers for three years then Team USA at the 1992 Olympics (a fourth-place finish in Albertville), but after he scored his 28 goals, Pittsburgh sent him to the Los Angeles Kings for Marty McSorley in August 1994, only to trade back for him the following February, with Tomas Sandstrom, in exchange for... McSorley and Jim Paek.

That being said, as a Montrealer who was looking for other options to satisfy my hockey cravings other than via the Montréal Canadiens, it's his six seasons with the Ottawa Senators that defines the speedster for me: 142 goals, 162 assists and 304 points in 454 games right in the Dead Puck Era, on a team that would regularly finish with over 100 points per season (before the loser points came into effect).

The turn-of-the-millennium Sens were serious contenders, flying high with their skill during the season, but usually falling flat come playoff time, when the bullying Toronto Maple Leafs would just play dirty and knock them out, in more ways than one.

McEachern represented that team extremely well and was an accurate reflection of it: quick, opportune, and mostly getting the job done by giving his best effort. But something was missing - that finishing touch. As quick as McEachern was, as many goals as he's scored - 256 in the NHL, all told - his signature play was taking the puck in the neutral zone and zoom past a defender with a clear path to the goalie, sometimes on a two-on-one, as most of the team was made up of equally-fast and skilled players with good offensive instincts; except it didn't matter, because McEachern was going too fast for his own puck control ability, and he'd get tunnel vision, not seeing his teammate, not seeing any other move than to shoot right at the goalie. Sometimes it'd go in, and sometimes a rebound would go to a teammate, but the deeper in the postseason it got, the more the opposing goalies would just pull it in, stop play and erase the menace.

He was like the 1990s' Russ Courtnall that way, and where Courtnall was a member of Team Canada's 1991 Canada Cup victory, McEachern was on the American squad that won the inaugural 1996 World Cup.

And now he'll be immortalized as #15 in my Sens Numbers Project, with the silver signed insert version of card #248 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set:
It shows him wearing the Sens' best-looking, original garbs, sporting the alternate captain's "A".

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My Expos Numbers Project: An Introduction

Why limit a good and fun concept to just hockey when I have enough signed baseball cards to seriously consider adding a Montréal Expos Numbers Project to all my hockey ones (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, and my Nordiques Numbers Project).

It'll be harder to finalize because baseball has more players in uniform (factoring in spring training and the 40-man roster after the trade deadline), but I start with the advantage that the team no longer exists, and no new number will be worn.

The first Canadian (and first non-U.S.) team to join Major League Baseball (in 1969), the team had its two best seasons when strikes disrupted play: the 1981 division win, and the magical 1994 season where they were leading the majors with a month left of play when the playoffs were cancelled as players walked out, which rang the beginning of the end for the team, who started its first official fire sale.

There'd been prior instances of the team trading highly-paid veterans for youth when they were being priced out of the team's budget (Gary Carter), but post-1994, it actually became official team policy to always trade players when they hit their prime and were about to earn serious dough. From the first wave (Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, John Wetteland) to the second (Pedro Martinez, Jose Vidro, Vladimir Guerrero) to seasons where it was a single player to when the Evil Twins came from New York with empty promises and ran the team to the ground so they could profit from its sale and trade up, to the Florida Marlins.
So, here I am attempting to collect autographed/memorabilia stuff from players representing every number worn by a member of the Expos. So far, I have featured 35; here they are:

Managers: Bill Virdon and Buck Rodgers.

3: Jose Vidro and Junior Noboa: check!
4: Mark Grudzielanek: check!
6: Ryan McGuire: check!
11: John Tamargo: check!
12: Wilfredo Cordero: check!
13: Jeff Fassero: check!
15: Curtis Pride (also wore #16) and Jeff Huson: check!
16: Tom Foley: check!
19: Fernando Seguignol: check!
20: Mike Fitzgerald and Brandon Watson: check!
21: Larry Jaster: check!
22: Rondell White: check!
23: Mitch Webster and Grant Jackson: check!
24: Darrin Fletcher: check!
25: David Segui: check!
27: Andy McGaffigan: check!
29: Tim Wallach (and again here): check!
30: my favourite ball player of all time, Tim Raines (and Cliff Floyd): check!
32: Dennis Martinez: check!
33: Carlos Perez and Peter Bergeron: check!
34: Gil Heredia (also wore #52): check!
35: Otis Nixon: check!
37: Buck Rodgers: check!
41: Brian Barnes (also wore #47): check!
44: Tim Burke and Ken Hill: check!
45: Michael Barrett (also wore #5), Carl Pavano and the great Steve Rogers: check!
46: Kevin Gross: check!
47:  Brian Barnes (also wore #41): check!
50: Jay Tibbs: check!
51: Randy St. Claire, Mike Thurman, and Scott Stewart: check!
54: Tim Scott: check!
55: Bill Sampen: check!
57: John Wetteland: check!
62: Henry Mateo: check!
64: Keith Evans: check!
66: Andy Tracy: check!
73: Josh Labandeira: check!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mike Reilly Jersey Card

Although Mike Reilly was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets (fourth round, 98th overall, 2011), the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers alumnus always wanted to wait the Jackets out and sign with his hometown Minnesota Wild upon becoming a free agent prior to the 2015-16 season. His father being a minority owner of the team was just another factor in the equation.

It took him his entire two-year ELC to get acquainted with the professional game, but he's suited up in 13 contests so far this year and has 5 assists so far on a strong team that is playing .500 hockey and should hit its stride soon enough - especially now that starting goalie Devan Dubnyk seems to have found his concentration, with two shutouts in recent games.

Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon may each have 10 points from the blue line thus far, but they're also at -4 apiece, whereas Reilly stands at -1. He was playing 14 minutes per game a couple of weeks ago, a number that's gone down to 11 or so of late, but on a Bruce Boudreau-coached team where Suter's ice time is counted in half-hours, that's fine for a 24-year-old making $750K.

Internationally, he won a gold medal suiting up for Team USA at the 2013 World Juniors and earned bronze at the 2015 World Championships.

I joined a group opening of a box of Upper Deck's 2016-17 SP Game-Used Edition cards and called "goalies" (I had third pick, and "center" and "right-shot defensemen" were taken), hoping to land a Corey Crawford, Marc-André Fleury, Dubnyk, Jaroslav Halak or Pekka Rinne for my collection or a Carey Price to trade or sell, but was blanked; another participant called "left-handed defensemen" and was disappointed with his Reilly pull, so I made him an offer and landed card #RS-MR in the series:
It's part of the Rookie Sweaters sub-set, numbered 183/499 and features a small red swatch from a jersey that was worn in a photo shoot.

I think the card's design is a bit clunky, with both the picture and swatch being so small compared to the "dead air/dead ice" of light blue all over. It's like UD hired a graphics team whose College final exam was to design a box for an Apple product but ultimately failed to work for the tech giant.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chris Butler Autographed Card

Although he's been with the St. Louis Blues organization since 2014-15, Chris Butler had more NHL reps with the Buffalo Sabres (155 games over three seasons) and Calgary Flames (194 games over three seasons) earlier in his career.

In the four seasons since, he's seen his games per year totals go from 33 to 5 to 1 and 0 this year despite being signed to his hometown team. It's not that he's particularly bad, he's just very unspectacular. He plays decently in his own zone but doesn't take the puck away every time, his 6'1", 196-pound frame has become part of the lower-average size for current-day defenders, he doesn't take many penalties, he's not super quick, and he makes a decent first pass without sending forwards on breakaways.

In many ways, he reminds me of Greg Pateryn.

Except that Butler wore #44 in Calgary, which makes him eligible for my Flames Numbers Project, with card #70 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set:
He signed it in blue sharpie - tagging his jersey number at the end - after a game against my hometown Montréal Canadiens in the winter of 2014. In typical Chris Butler fashion, he had one shot on goal and blocked another in 25 shifts (19 minutes) that night, going pointless in a loss.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Drew Stanton Rookie Jersey Card

As was the case with this Robert Meachum card, this one of Drew Stanton (from the same 2007 Bowman Sterling set and Authentic Player-Worn Jersey sub-set from Topps, card #BSRR-DS in the series) is a tad unclear as to when and where the jersey was worn:
As his de facto rookie card, it's fair to say chances are the swatch is from an event-worn jersey, seeing as Stanton hadn't played a single NFL game prior to the 2007 season.

He was, however, a star College quarterback - ranked second in the country - albeit one with a substantial injury history, as he'd suffered significant damage in 2005 and 2006, which probably explains why he fell to the second round and the Detroit Lions.

He suffered a season-ending injury at the Lions' 2007 training camp in August and missed the entire 2008 preseason with a sprained thumb. He did get his first start in Week 16 of the 2009 season, and in 2010, led the Lions to their first road win in over three years (yeah, Detroit was pretty bad at football for a while).

2012 saw him split his time between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts, but upon losing the starting job to Andrew Luck, he chose to sign with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, backing up the oft-injured Carson Palmer.

In 2014 alone, Stanton suffered a concussion, an MCL sprain and an infection. He didn't play much in 2015 and 2016, but was crowned the new starter three weeks ago when Palmer went down with another injury. Except Stanton himself sprained his knee and could miss a couple of games.

Football's a tough sport, after all.

Here's wishing him a speedy and complete recovery.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My Flames Numbers Project: An Introduction

I have hinted at it before, but after my Montréal Expos Numbers Project and all my hockey ones (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, and my Nordiques Numbers Project), now's the time to do the same for the Calgary Flames.
The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, the only visiting team to ever win it on Montréal Canadiens home ice. They have been in Calgary since 1980, but the franchise started out as the Atlanta Flames in 1972. For my project, I think I'll focus on the Calgary era only. It may evolve over time but for now, that'll be my goal.

Speaking of goals, the point of this project is to feature memorabilia from players who represent each uniform number ever worn in team history; ideally, for the purposes of displaying it upon completion, it'd be nice to have those all be signed cards; however, because I'm far from rich, sometimes these may be other types of signed items, or even jersey cards.

So far, I have featured the following 40* players for 36 numbers:

1: Tyler Moss: check!
3: Ladislav Smid: check!
5: Mark Giordano: jersey card check!
7:  T.J. Brodie (also wore #66) and Steve Bégin (also wore 26): check!
8: Joël Bouchard: check!
9: Lanny McDonald: check!
10: Roman Cervenka: check!
11: Gary Leeman and Mikael Backlund: check!
12: Jarome Iginla (twice): check!
13: Michael Cammalleri: jersey card check!
16: Cory Stillman and Dustin Boyd (also wore #41): check!
18: Matt Stajan: check!
20: Gary Suter: check!
22: Ron Stern: check!
23: Sean Monahan: check!
25: Willie Plett and Joe Nieuwendyk: check!
26: Steve Bégin: check!
27: Ed Beers: check!
28: Émile Poirier: check!
29: Joel Otto: check!
31: Réjean Lemelin, Rick Wamsley, and Ken Wregget: check!
34: Miikka Kiprusoff: check!
35: Henrik Karlsson: check!
37: Trevor Kidd and Leland Irving: check!
38: Ben Street: check!
40: Fred Brathwaite and Alex Tanguay: check!
41: Dustin Boyd (also wore #16): check!
42: Mark Cundari: check!
44: Chris Butler: check!
47: Sven Baertschi: check!
48: Greg Nemisz: check!
53: Derek Morris: check!
57: Émile Poirier: check!
59: Maxwell Reinhart: check!
61: Oleg Saprykin (also wore #19): check!
66: T.J. Brodie (also wore #7): check!

captains: McDonald, Nieuwendyk and Iginla.
*some players appear twice, and therefore count as two.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Denis Metlyuk Autograph Card

Denis Metlyuk was a Russian hockey player who was active from the early 1990s until the mid-oughts. He was drafted in the second round (31st overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992 and thus came to North America to try his luck, suiting up for 81 games over two seasons with the AHL's Hershey Bears.

Which is where this signed insert card from Classic's 1993-94 4 Sport set, showing him wearing the Bears' classic burgundy uniform, albeit with the team's logo airbrushed out and a HERSHEY wordmark taking its place:
It's signed in blue sharpie and numbered 2087/2960, an incredibly specific run.

Metlyuk spent most of his career in the Russian Superliga playing for Tolyatti Lada HC, a team so poor the KHL expelled it because its arena wasn't up to league standards.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Matt Duchene Jersey Card

Joe Sakic pulled it off and essentially traded both Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris for terrific pulls in one swift move, sending Duchene to the Ottawa Senators (for Turris, former first-rounder Shane Bowers, goalie Andrew Hammond, and the Sens' 2018 first-round pick and 2019 third-rounder), then flipping Turris to the Nashville Predators for quality defensive prospect Samuel Girard, young point-per-game AHLer Vladislav Kamenev and their 2018 second-round draft pick.

That's right - the GM who was so inept that his head coach left two weeks before training camp last season, whose players abandoned before Christmas last year, who opted to protect an injury-prone $6M goalie instead of a sure-fire starter in one or two years, and who had only three NHL defensemen under contract 48 hours before handing in his start-of-the-season 23-player list just a month ago - essentially got three quality prospects, a body in net and three high draft picks for a guy who's known he was going to be traded for the better part of the last 15 months and was straddling the line between not wanting to play and no one wanting to play with him.

In doing so, he may have accelerated his rebuild by two entire seasons and may yet have a decent team when his true current star, Nathan MacKinnon, enters his prime.

There's something to be said about being able to learn on the job, especially if you're allowed to make mistakes.

And that's something that can also apply to Duchene, too. He hasn't been the best teammate in the past couple of years, with many veterans (Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Paul Stastny, Patrick Roy, Jarome Iginla) turning their backs on him and what seemed like selfish actions. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, perhaps a lack of maturity, or perhaps they were just mistakes.

He has a chance to start anew now, on a team that clearly thinks it can contend in the near future, seeing as his contract will expire at the end of next season.

Here he is wearing the Avs' burgundy (now-home) uniform, on card #WM-DU from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SPx collection and Winning Materials sub-set:
It features two matching game-worn jersey swatches.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Andrew Cogliano Autographed Card

Congratulations are in order for Andrew Cogliano, who suited up in his 800th consecutive NHL game tonight - only the fourth player of all time to reach that milestone, and just the second to do so from his first game onward.

If he makes it another calendar year, he'll surpass Steve Larmer's 884 consecutive games, for third on the all-time list, and if he goes through this year and next without missing a game, he'll just have 15 more to go to beat Doug Jarvis' record of 964, passing having passed Gary Unger's 914 along the way.

No one wants to jinx him, of course, but if he were to do it, it's be poetic justice if the league could make it so that it happens against the team he played his first game (and first four seasons) with, the Edmonton Oilers.

Here he is wearing Edmonton's post-lockout pajama-style white (then-away) uniform, on card #5 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Trilogy set:
He signed it in blue sharpie around that time, or perhaps in 2009-10, and included his uniform number for good measure, which makes him the second entry for #13 in my Oilers Numbers Project.

My Oilers Numbers Project: An Introduction

Long-time readers are probably familiar with my Habs Numbers Project, where I'm attempting to get a collectible item - ideally an autograph, but a jersey card will do - of a representative of every jersey number ever worn by a member of the Montréal Canadiens.

Since it's well underway and moving along nicely, I thought I could do the same for the Edmonton Oilers, seeing as I've already published 47/78, so I'm roughly halfway there just by what I've already written, without counting my existing and extensive backlog.
Spoiler alert: I don't have anything from Wayne Gretzky. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford to, either, and he doesn't sign TTM, understandably - though many collectors confuse his autopen for an autograph. Which, when I get there, I might also count, myself (though I don't have one of those either).

Here's what I have:

1: Ty Conklin: check!
2: Eric Brewer and Lee Fogolin: check!
4: Kevin Lowe: check!
5: Steve Smith and Ladislav Smid (again here): check!
6: Jeff Beukeboom: check!
8: Joe Murphy: check!
9: Bill Guerin: check!
10: Shawn Horcoff, Pat Falloon, and Nail Yakupov: check!
12: Adam Graves: check!
13: Ken Linseman and Andrew Cogliano: check!
14: Raffi Torres: check!
16: Kelly Buchberger: check!
17: Jari Kurri: jersey card check!
18: Craig Simpson: check!
19: Boyd Devereaux and Patrick O'Sullivan: check!
21: Vincent Damphousse and Andrew Ference: check!
22: Charlie Huddy: check!
23: Sean Brown: check!
24:  Theo Peckham and Kevin McClelland: check!
25: Mike Grier: check!
26: Mike Krushelnyski and Brad Winchester: check!
27: Scott Mellanby, Georges Laraque and Boyd Gordon: check!
28: Craig Muni: check!
29: Ty Conklin: dual jersey card check, will look to improve
30: Bill Ranford: check!
31: Grant Fuhr: jersey card check!
33: Dan McGillis: check!
35: Mikhail Shtalenkov: check!
37: Lennart Petrell: check!
38: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: check!
39: Doug Weight: check!
40: Devan Dubnyk: check!
42: David Oliver: check!
44: Chris Pronger: jersey card check!
48: Ryan Hamilton: check!
49: Theo Peckham: check!
51: Philippe Cornet and Andrei Kovalenko: check!
54: Chris VandeVelde: check!
56: Teemu Hartikainen: check!
57: David Perron: jersey card check!
58: Jeff Petry: check!
62: Mark Arcobello (also wore #26): check!
64: Nail Yakupov: check!
68: Tyler Pitlick: check!
77: Tom Gilbert: check!
78: Jordan Eberle (also wore #14): check!
81: Taylor Fedun: check!
83: Ales Hemsky: check!
85: Petr Klima: check!
89: Sam Gagner and Mike Comrie: check!
91: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson: check!
94: Ryan Smyth: check and check again!

Captains: Fogolin, Lowe, Buchberger, Ference, Smyth

Numbers 50, 53, 61, 63, 66, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 79, 82, 86, 87, 90, 92, 95, 96, 97, and 98 have not been worn by Oilers players, which means I'm looking to fill these:

3: Al Hamilton is the only one who's worn this number in team history
7: Paul Coffey, Martin Gélinas, Jason Arnott and Dan Cleary are good calls
11: Well, that's Mark Messier
15: This number changes owners almost yearly
20: Five players wore it in 1994 alone, 27 in total
31: Eddie Mio, Grant Fuhr and Curtis Joseph have all worn this with success
32: Miroslav Satan, Ron Tugnutt and Mathieu Garon come to mind
34: I'll be writing Donald Dufresne next year, but Fernando Pisani would also be nice
36: Tough guy Dennis Bonvie may have worn it the longest - 2 years
41: Brent Gilchrist or Jean-François Jacques might be the easiest to get
43: Dennis Bonvie and Jason Strudwick have worn this one
45:  I liked Shawn Belle
46: Tough guy Zack Stortini would rule
47: Paul Comrie or Marc-André Bergeron work here
52: Allen Rouke and Jerred Smithson have worn this one
55: Igor Ulanov and Alex Henry were tough defenders
59: Brad Hunt is the lone bearer, and it happened this year
60: Sébastien Bisaillon wore this in 2010
65: Mark Napier wore this in 1987
67: Gilbert Brulé never replied to any of my TTMs
71: It's a toss-up between Petr Sykora and Lubomir Visnovsky
76: Bryan Young had it for one season
80: Ilya Bryzgalov, may have missed my chance with this one
84: Oscar Klefbom wore it last year
88: Rob Schremp wore it half a decade ago
93: It's between Petr Nedved and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
99: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky

Friday, November 3, 2017

Grant Jackson Autographed Card

Grant Jackson's Major League career was comprised of ups and downs, but it started with a bittersweet moment; becoming his family's main bread-earner, as his father had died when Grant was still in high school, so when the Philadelphia Phillies came to him with a contract offer that included a $1500 bonus, he jumped on it immediately and signed on the spot. Days later, the Milwaukee Braves and Baltimore Orioles each offered him a much bigger bonus [of $35,000], prompting this reflection: "I wish I could have called the Phillies back and told them I wasn't going to accept their offer."

That didn't stop him from playing for the team for six seasons (1965-70), which included a spot in the 1969 All-Star Game, although he did not play. He was then traded to the Orioles with Jim Hutto and Sam Parrilla, for Roger Freed.

From 1976 onward, it became more hectic, as he made his way to the New York Yankees via trade, the Seattle Mariners via expansion draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates via trade, the Montréal Expos via purchase, the Kansas City Royals via trade and a final turn with the Pirates as a free agent.

In the 1970s, he appeared in three world Series (1971 - Orioles; 1976 - Yankees; 1979 - Pirates), earning the final win for Pittsburgh in Game 7 in 1979. He still lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh to this day.

Although he played with many Hall of Famers throughout his career (Tim Raines, Gary Carter and Andre Dawson come to mind from his short stint with the Expos), he has a clear-cut idea on who the best player he's even played with is: "Willie Stargell was the star of our team [in Pitsburgh]. He was a great leader, on and off the field. He was the best player and best teammate I ever came into contact with. The day he died [April 9, 2001] was one of the sorriest days of my life."

He signed this card for me in blue sharpie around 2005, a couple of years after retiring from coaching in the Minors, at a card show in New York:
It's card #779 from Topps' 1982 Topps set, showing him wearing the Expos' red Spring raining t-shirt. He's wearing #23 here, although he never got to play with that number in Montréal; he wore #19 in 1981, and was traded to the Royals in March 1982, probably shortly after this picture was taken.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Marian Gaborik Dual Jersey Card

The Los Angeles Kings (9-2-1, 1st in Pacific Division) are doing fine without him, but Marian Gaborik has yet to play a single game so far this year. As a matter of fact, he hasn't played a full 82-game season since 2011-12 while with the New York Rangers. Which is also the only time he played in every single game.

The three-time 40-goal scorer's best in L.A. is the 27-goal, 20-assist, 47-point performance in 69 games with the Kings in 2014-15, but he had been terrific with a 22-point Spring during the previous postseason.

He scored at least 30 goals five times while with the Minnesota Wild, 40 twice in New York, and appeared in two Olympics with Team Slovakia, including a fourth-place finish in 2010; he's known success in so many places it's hard to remember his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets as anything other than a blur.

In fact, he spent just about a calendar year in Ohio, with middling results:
from HockeyDB
But playing in Columbus produced this great-looking card:
That's card #FA-MG from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Artifacts set and Frozen Artifacts sub-set. It features two differently-coloured game-worn jersey swatches.

There is no clear timetable for his return this season.